Doomsday scenario for Sereno

I must clarify what I wrote in yesterday’s column on why I honestly believe that the conviction and ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is a foregone conclusion.

This is so because even judges of trial courts and employees are urging her to resign for obvious reasons. She violated the Constitution, and she lacks the rectitude or moral integrity for us to still trust her.

I would like to clarify that I attributed to Charles L. Black the words of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who will now head the prosecution in the Senate trial of Sereno.

It was a nine-page paper about impeachment rules and laws. Enrile wrote about what he thought of the impeachment trial of Sereno, taking off from the handbook written by Black.

Enrile pointed out after quoting Section 1 Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, on the Accountability of Public Officers, that the provision is clear and leaves no room for doubt that all public officers and employees must be at all times accountable to the people.

They must serve with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency.

Enrile said that public officers must also act with patriotism and justice and must lead modest lives. Otherwise, they will be liable for removal from their offices for “betraying public trust.”

Enrile also quoted Section 10 of Article XI that if a public officer betrayed the public trust, he is liable to be removed from his position through impeachment.

The most damning of all in the impeachment of Sereno is Section 17 of Article XI of the Constitution, which requires public officials to, upon assumption of office and so often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth. This declaration shall be disclosed to the public in a manner prescribed by law.

Thus, if Sereno upon assumption of office as professor at the UP College of Law did not submit all SALN as required by law, she did not only betray public trust. She also violated the Constitution. There are no ifs or buts about it.

Enrile said Section 1 and Section 17 of Article XI are mandatory and preemptory commands to be fulfilled by all persons concerned. No public officer or employee of the government, no matter how high his rank, no matter how vast his power, can cavalierly ignore these commands, much less disdainfully defy them.

With Enrile heading the prosecution panel against Sereno, she should be worried sick. Enrile, who was Senate President at the time of the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, knows very well the mechanics and the procedures of impeachment.

I wonder why Sereno is stonewalling and saying she will fight her impeachment.

The only reason I see is that she knows impeachment is a purely political exercise, and that there will be senators who will vote for the dismissal of the case.

Sereno must be relying on Liberal Party Senators like Kiko Pangilinan, Frank Drilon, Bam Aquino and Riza Hontiveros, together with Antonio Trillanes and Leila de Lima who may just be allowed to participate in the process.

Still, their votes would not be enough. Perhaps Sereno is hoping that there will be more to align themselves with her.

Another consideration is the quo warranto case filed her before the Supreme Court. This concerns her fitness as chief justice. She was found unfit and unqualified even as the Judicial and Bar Council kept her in its shortlist, from which President Benigno Aquino III picked her.

If the Court were to find her unfit and unqualified to be primus inter pares, that would certainly preempt the Senate trial. The questions is who will come first—the impeachment trial at the Senate or the Supreme Court decision on the quo warranto petition?

It looks like doomsday is coming.

* * *

The biggest argument for a federal form of government has been the existence of political dynasties.

While there is a constitutional provision against dynasties, there has not been any enabling law enacted. For obvious reasons.

Now the consultative committee created by President Duterte to recommend amendments to the Constitution has voted to only regulate—not totally ban—political dynasties.

The recommendation covers only relatives within the second degree of consanguinity and affinity, to include incumbent officials, spouses, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, grandchildren and their spouses, parents-in-law, siblings-in-law and their spouses and grandparents-in-law.

The matter of whether the regulation will cover domestic partners, mistresses or paramours was not taken up.

What makes this difficult to achieve is that Congress can choose to adopt or not adopt the recommendations.

Even the President himself has said he does not believe dynasties are bad, per se. He has his own dynasty in Davao City.

I believe the anti-dynasty regulation will not pass the Congress wringer simply because Congress is populated by products of dynasties.

This is really a problem during elections. Voters become reliant on dynasties which have power and money.

It’s actually a vicious cycle. When prominent family members are elected, they take advantage of the poor who rely on their money.

Historically and culturally, Philippine society has always been tribal in character. All the more so in Muslim Mindanao.

A federal form of government will only enhance political dynasties.

* * *

The restoration of the subpoena powers of the chief of the Philippine National Police and the chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group brings to fore several questions.

Can we trust that the police will not abuse its powers? The President’s war on illegal drugs is a testament to the brutality of the police when it comes to human rights and the rule of law.

Topics: conviction , ouster , Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno , Charles L. Black , Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile , Senate trial , 1987 Constitution
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